Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Musings from my workshop research

Happy Summer everyone!  
I have been busy putting together a couple of workshops, one on healthy knees and the other one on helping us heal our anxiety.  The one that is 'tugging' at me is the one on anxiety.  As a Yoga Lifestyle Coach I am often surprised at just how many people suffer, or live with, some level of anxiety. We worry about everything, and I started to wonder....why? After a couple of months of researching and thinking about life, I have come to a couple of conclusions.  Two things, the global communication has become so pervasive that nothing happens that we don't know about immediately and our bodies have not had the time to evolve to keep up with the speed of change in our world.  My thought processes are below......

First.....Everyday, without fail, I hear about the consequences of global warming, wild fires, earthquakes, tainted drinking water, kidnapped children, politicians who have no regard for humanity, articles on how to deal with self absorbed people, well-meaning self-help gurus who appear to have all the answers for a spiritual life, superfoods that will heal everything from weak fingernails to cancer.....I could continue because unfortunately, the list is endless.  This constant bombardment of negative, fear provoking media reports must have an impact on my well-being.  Regardless of what is 'printed' on social media, you can bet your last dime that someone will be angry about it or be offended by it, and feel the need to rant and rave and....I don't know....convince the unknown author to change their minds???  The radio, the television, the cell phone, the media, everyone is determined to tell us every detail about the latest disaster or potential disaster.  Also let's not forget all the people who are so quick to share doom and gloom on their Facebook page or instagram accounts!  If I see one more post that starts..."I know which of my friends will post this" I think I may explode (can you say....subtle bullying)!!  Can you imagine how we would live if we followed all the well meaning people who 'share' this vital information with us?  We would never eat anything (parasites), travel in a car (someone getting in the back seat to kill you), sit on the grass (ticks, lyme disease), drink water (stagnant water run-off), go on vacation (murders), have an opinion (someone will be offended) or stay home (mould)!!! Yikes, somebody get me a bubble!
Now let me be clear, I really do take all of these things VERY seriously, our world is not perfect and we have to be responsible and take care to do our part to heal the earth, but allowing myself to be inundated with all this negativity, everyday, is doing nothing for my well-being or my mental health.  
So, for the next month, I will no longer be listening to the news, I will be skimming my media and passing by anything that remotely looks negative, fear mongering or just unsettling.  At the end of the month, I will see how my 'sanity' has been affected.  
I started to notice this barrage of 'news' quite a while ago, but it was only when I started doing more research on anxiety that it hit me.....how can we be calm and peaceful when we are being subjected to such unhealthy thoughts/words/ideas on a daily basis?
I will let you know how this negative media break works out for me.

Second.....Humans have spent thousands and thousands of years evolving into the people we are today.  We ate natural foods and we ate them when they were available and when we were able to acquire them (seasonally, not daily).  Our digestive systems evolved to adapt to this pattern. We slept when the sun went down and we got up when the sun rose.  We relied on each other because no one person could do it all.  Our possessions were based mostly on need with a few 'special things' and we only had what we could grow, make, trade for or find.  Fast forward to the present. We live on processed food (while inflammation is rampant), drive our vehicles while complaining about the transport of fossil fuels, expect that we should have whatever we want, whenever we want it (24 hr shopping, instant messaging, buried in debt), our relationships are becoming more and more virtual and less and less face to face.  Judgement has become the most popular 'game' in town.  Our bodies, minds and spirits have not had the time, let alone the ability, to evolve in order to adapt to the latest trends. Chronic stress has become an epidemic and it is showing up as inflammation, anxiety and physical pain.  AGAIN, I repeat, each of these things has merit and needs attention, my point is that if everyone is forcing their positions and opinions on us it becomes oppressive and people shut down.....or they develop acute anxiety. And now, I have come full circle.  I have come to believe that the source of anxiety is the overwhelm that occurs when we are taking in too much negative stimuli and have too little time to process it.

What if we all started leading by example?  Instead of criticizing, we listen, instead of forcing our opinions on others, we try to understand a differing point of view.  Demonstrate what it means to be kind. Smile when someone scowls, show compassion when you are presented with a differing opinion.  Choose not to engage in negative conversations, find peace in your own life and in your world, show the people around you what it looks like to be content and peaceful. 

Just so you know....I DO get the irony of this negative post and I can assure you it will be the last. But as a closing thought....the next time you want to share that picture of the starving polar bear, please take the time to research, you will find that it was taken by a National Geographic photographer and it is a very old bear, who is at the end of his/her life and was heading off to die....as bears will do.  He is NOT starving.  Yes, global warming is causing the polar icecaps to melt and yes, animals are being negatively affected, but sharing propaganda is not helping the bears and it is just one more negative news item that you are dangling in front of your friends. 

As a person who has brought yoga into my life, I have learned that yoga is not about your ability to perform postures, but how we gain control of our body, mind and spirit....our life.  How we become in tune with how we feel on all levels and act accordingly in our best interests.

If you would like to respond to me, please email me at terriblairmaracle@gmail.com 
I continue to have issues with technology and can't seem to get the comments section to work, clearly communicating via technology is not my strong point :)

Friday, May 31, 2019

A Personal Insight Into Monkey Mind and Yo Yo Weight, Part 1

I have struggled with weight issues and anxious thoughts for a very long time.

I never thought of myself as someone who 'suffered' from anxiety, but I did have trouble sleeping due to random thoughts which evolved into worried thoughts.  I would wake up and if some worrisome thought didn't pop into my head, my brain would scan for something to worry about....at least that is how it felt.  This became my pattern, never sleeping a full night without the negative thoughts invading my rest.

I have gained and lost so much weight over the years that my thought pattern became that I could lose weight and I could gain weight, but I couldn't maintain weight.  The trouble with this thought is that it became a belief.  A core belief about myself which drove my actions. The result...I was either in gain mode or loss mode, but the time I was the happiest was in maintain mode...BUT my mind told me I did not have the ability to stay there.  Hence my yo yo weight.

Despite the cycle of weight and anxiety, I continued on the same path and not surprisingly getting the same results....continued weight fluctuation and continued sleep disruption.  Recently (courtesy of one of my teachers and a yoga workshop I attended in Toronto), I was reminded of my university days and my neuroscience studies involving the purpose and impact of learning and memory, as well as the way our brains learn and develop habits, and why.  BOOM! The biggest Ah Ha moment I've ever had.

My issues with weight and with anxiety stem from the same source! The patterns my brain had developed, over my entire life, were so firmly ensconced in my brain that I was fighting an uphill battle to change what my brain saw as a comfortable, reliable way of life.  My routines had become super highways in my neural connections and it was time to get off that super highway and start taking the country roads!!  No longer was the 'familiar' going to be the default.  Change does not have to be bad.  The stereotype of this behaviour is the abused woman who stays with an abusive husband because remaining with the familiar is 'safer' in the brain than the fear of something new.  Another example is that of the butterfly...the caterpillar goes through the change to become the beautiful butterfly....the key word being 'change'.

We learn by making neural connections in the brain.  The first time we drive to a new friend's house we are watching every road sign, driving slowly so as not to miss anything and checking the house numbers of every home we pass.  Once we have gone there a few times we can easily get there while conversing with another or planning our grocery list.  WHY....because our brain has incorporated  the route into our working memory and now it is part of the default, background information on which we build our life.  We did this a lot as a child when we learned virtually everything! Once a child learns to walk, there is no stopping him, he no longer wobbles, he quickly learns to run.
Unfortunately, these same neural connections are the reason why I can not SEEM to control my weight or my anxious thoughts.....my brain has these strong neural connections to how I eat and how I think. It was time for a change.

The good news is that change is possible, but not by struggling with existing neural patterns but by creating new ones!  No longer will my brain find that eating an ice cream cone is the answer for loneliness and no longer will my brain think that night time is the time for rehashing every decision I ever made.  No longer will my weight fluctuate and no longer will my mind dwell "in the cellar" during the night (and sometimes during the day) but I WILL create new patterns so that when I am functioning on autopilot (as we most often do) I will have different patterns....and as I have proved with my lifetime of dysfunctional patterns, once these patterns develop into super highways, life will change dramatically, with little or no effort on my part.  But first....the work begins on creating new pathways, and I begin on the country roads.

Stay tuned for part two of  'A Personal Insight into Monkey Mind and Yo Yo Weight'.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Spring and Sunrise and New Beginnings

Something stirs in the soul when you see the sun rise.  The colours, the silence, the peaceful energy all lead us to the realization that each day is a new beginning.  We often lose the knowledge that at any point, on any day, we can recreate the life we lead.  Take a deep breathe as you view the sunrise and ask yourself....what is it that I want from this one life I have?  What makes my heart sing and my soul soar? Am I living my best life?  What do I love and what do I want to change?  Then, remind yourself that you have the ability to create that world.  You can change jobs, you can bring new people into your life, you can depend on your 'circle' to support you and most importantly you can put your happiness first.  Lead by example, show your children, your family and your friends that living the life your were meant to live is how you intend to live and that it is also what you want for them.  Remaining in a life that drains you of your vital life force energy is not what you would want for your loved ones....why is it something that you are willing to accept for yourself?
Start with the simple things...rather than decide what has to go....what do you want to bring in to your life?  Add things that bring you joy.  A monthy trip to an art gallery or museum, a book club, a Sunday drive to explore the area where you live, a yoga class, a meditation ritual, clearing out clutter one drawer at a time or taking time to nurture a relationship.  Something that makes your heart smile just a little, we are not looking at major changes or eliminating things from your life because large change brings stress and stress is the major reason we stop and return to the familiar.....no matter how unhappy it makes us.  As you slowly add joy to your life, your soul will gain strength and you will know when you are ready to make yet another change.  Over time, the changes will add up to a life you love.
Maybe it all begins with watching the sun rise one morning, a new day, a new beginning for the world and maybe, just maybe the beginning of something new and better for you.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Our Perspective on What Might Have Been

There are times we wish we could change, alter or delete things that have happened in our past.  We look for closure, hoping it will erase the pain of the memories, but the memories remain.
Closure is not just about letting go of what has happened to us, it is also about letting go of your fantasy of how things would have been.  We all have an ideal life that we hope to live and we ALL have things that have happened to us that we wish we could change.  Our mind is a wonderful thing and it gives us our personality and our quest for knowledge....and is also is a great storyteller.  We weave stories based on our limited knowledge about future events.  It can start as....I'll be happy once I....get a job, start a family, find my soulmate, lose some weight etc., etc..  We have a whole life in our mind as to how wonderful things will be or would have been and truthfully, nothing will ever live up to the fantasy that exists in our minds. Great authors have woven stories that have captivated the imaginations of generations of humans with their story telling abilities.  We too, have the ability to tell great stories, but sometimes we are so focused on the story in our mind that we lose sight of the story of our life.
If only I had gone to university.....but then I wouldn't have met my best friend; if only I had moved out west to take that job....but maybe i would have been in an accident; if only I hadn't moved to the city.....but by changing any one thing in your life, everything else changes too.  Think about that, what might you lose....a friend, a child, a partner. Every little decision we make in life affects our future from that moment on.  Which road to take, which friend to call, which course to study, which store to shop in....EVERY decision impacts EVERYTHING that follows it.
We can not change the past, but we can make decisions to take us forward.  Romanticizing the 'what ifs' in our past is just another way of beating ourselves up.  Our life would NOT be perfect today if 'that thing' hadn't happened or 'that thing' did happen, it might be better, but it also might be worse.  We will never know what might have been, but we do have the ability to have an impact on what happens next.  Find the people and experiences that bring you joy and relish the gratitude for those memories.
As in the photo above, the future is foggy until we make choices and move closer... with movement comes focus and with focus comes clarity.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Gratitude and Choices in this Spring Holiday Time

Unconditional love is often touted as the ultimate solution for a perfect life, but as much as it is a blessing it also comes with a caution.  The joy of knowing that you are loved totally and unconditionally brings comfort & stability and allows you to truly be yourself, without sensor.  The caution is to always be mindful that it is easy to take for granted, that person with whom you are so sure. Be careful with your words and actions, some wounds go very deep.  Take time to be grateful for the precious gift of unconditional love.   We sometimes give the best of ourselves to those who are our acquaintances, as we try to protect our public persona, leaving the drained, tired and unmotivated self for those we love the most.  Ask yourself….who matters most to me? Take the time to know what, and who, makes your heart sing.  

Happiness does not come from spending most of your life just getting through the day or waiting for those two vacation weeks a year when you can ‘enjoy life’. Your life is not meant to be crammed into a few weeks a year while you just ‘go through the motions’ for the other 50 weeks. Money is important, I get that, but all the money in the world will never make up for a hollow life full of distant acquaintances, working at a job that does not stir your passion and social media ‘friends’.  Finding joy in the simple things is the key.  Anyone can have a great time on a Hawaiian holiday, but the truly happy person is the one who finds joy in their daily routines, their family & friends and the peace that comes from experiencing ‘alone time’ in silence and tranquility.  It is in this state of silence and tranquility that we come to really know ourselves.  What makes you happy?  A simple question, but one that many of us have trouble answering. What activities are so enjoyable for you that you lose track of time? Which people will you turn your schedule upside down to accommodate because you feel so good in their company? Do you smile every time you walk into your home…if not, why not.

During the holiday times of the year, we are reminded to give thanks for our bounty and blessings.  This holiday ritual can bring us joy and peace, but for some people this is difficult because their memories do not bring them warm feelings, but instead bring anxious thoughts creating physical reactions.  We can not change the past but we can take steps to make our lives more peaceful.  Be careful not to let your mind gather unrelated experiences and create anxious, pseudo real ‘memories’ or to anticipate the negativity that is so prevalent in our society. Make new holiday traditions including only people, with whom you can be authentic.  Try different holiday foods, different holiday rituals, different holiday traditions.  

Your life lies ahead of you, create that life in a way that makes you glad to wake up each morning.  Each day is a new beginning in which you can define what happiness means to you and surround yourself with those who support that vision.  Remember that you will see and hear what you expect to hear and see.  Expect joy, expect peace, expect happiness.

Namaste my friends, and until next time……Happy Holiday.

Monday, April 15, 2019

My Life Perspective

My Lifestyle Perspective

There is no one solution that works for everyone. This is the MOST important thing you will ever know.  It is important that you begin by learning and accepting, who you truly are.   Only once you know and accept your true nature can you find the supports to help you with your unique journey through life.

Humans Beings are not cardboard cutouts, we are not all the same.  We are living, breathing creatures who are composed of uniquely different strands of DNA that create wonderfully different individuals.  When all the different unique people in the world learn to listen to each others perspectives, appreciate the strengths in others as well as the strengths within ourselves, we will be entering a time of peace and understanding.

Isolating issues (tunnel vision) and ignoring the holistic perspective will only result, at best, in temporary relief or happiness.  Wellness requires that we heal the whole self. We are integrated beings and therefore trying to separate out one issue, while disregarding the whole will never result in total health, although temporary relief may allow you to ignore the issue and the consequences for a little while longer.  Example: Applying topical pain medication to a twisted knee, may allow you to continue to work with minimal pain BUT the numbing of the pain is allowing you to continue to hurt the already twisted knee and there is no progress to healing.  You need to ask yourself -  Is your priority short term pain suppression or long term healing? How did you twist your knee?  Do you do this regularly?  Did you add a cold compress to prevent additional inflammation?  How can you prevent repeating the cause? Could someone else have done the job?  Does your ego have an impact on your decision to ‘keep going’? 

This is my view of life and how I work to restore balance, health, joy and peace to an individual.  I work from a holistic perspective and believe that when the body, mind and spirit are aligned, balanced health is the result.  My technique is based on two primary sources:  first, the lifestyle ‘sister science’ of yoga called, ayurveda and the second is the hierarchy of needs as set out by Abraham Maslow.
Ayurveda focuses on ‘three pillars’ of health: sleep, nourishment and the management of vital energy.  Nourishment involves both the physical intake of nutrition and the nourishment of the mind the emotions and the soul.  Maslow focusses on building your ‘stable house’ from the ground up.  Developing a stable and grounded base from which you build. 

We must look at ourselves in terms of our physical body, our mind, our emotions, our social and our spiritual perspectives. Sometimes, the reason we have to continue to ‘fix’ the same problem is not so much that it is recurring, but because we have only ‘fixed’ the superficial aspect of the issue.  As long as the roots exist, the issue will continue to grow and we will be caught in the cycle of both physical and mental pain/illness/disease and short term relief.

Asking for help means being willing to:
  1. Let down your guard and look at yourself objectively.  This can be very difficult as we all build a framework, based on our life experiences through which we see the world and we hold our beliefs and opinions very close.
  2. Listen, then converse
  3. Make small changes that will add up to big changes…..or dive in and make major changes in your life, all at once (different options work for different people, remember, we are each unique)!
  4. Restructure your routines and thought patterns
  5. Take control (knowing what is within your control and what issues belong to another and over which you have no control).
If you can be open about your complete being, understand that evolving with change is a good thing (and that it is the very process that moves life in a positive direction) and engage in a conversation that requires both talking and listening, you are well on your way to a healthy, happy fulfilling life!

Take everything this world has to offer you, listen to the medical community, the wholistic community, the scientific community and most importantly listen to your own mind and body, you are truly the greatest book of wisdom for yourself.  Talk to the professionals that you trust, listen to what they recommend, make a plan, then follow it!  Life is a gift.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Our View of the World

We each see the world in a different way, our framework is created by our past experiences and that which we expect to see and hear in our daily interactions. My energy follows my thinking, that which I expect to hear and see, I will see and hear.

I want you to visualize the following ‘mountain analogy’ of the world. Imagine that your and three of your friends are at the base of a huge mountain, looking up at the peak. Each of you is at a different point on the base, you are on the south side and the others are on the north and east sides. You all see the SAME mountain, but from a different perspective. All of you see what is in front of you, all of you see the same mountain but you do not see the SAME thing. Each view is as valid as the next, only by listening to each other can we have a better understanding of the whole. Too often we engage in conversation by speaking, then either waiting to speak again or listening for the purpose of proving the other person wrong. What we need to do is listen for the purpose of understanding. Our fragile ego will not collapse under a different opinion, but we can learn to understand differing perspectives and how someone else might have a different view of the world ….even if we do not accept their view.

During every moment of the day, we are bombarded with stimuli. It is virtually impossible to process all of it, so our brain learns to filter. In a perfect world this is a good thing, but in reality the filters we developed could be making us anxious, unhappy or even a little paranoid. In a room full of noisy people, if someone mentions your name, you will hear it….why….because our filter usually allows for personal things to get through, but what are those personal things? If my body image is poor (I’m too fat, too tall, too skinny, too short etc.) I will perceive comments about body image as “directed” toward me. I will hear those comments in a room full of noisy people because it is personal to me. This stimuli will enter my mind and be directed to my emotions, and I will immediately retrieve old unpleasant memories. The noisy gathering of people will begin to seem uncomfortable and oppressive and I will probably want to leave.

My energy follows my thinking…that which i expect to hear/see, i will hear/see.

Understanding our triggers or our sensitive areas is the beginning. Once we know what causes us dis-ease (as in uneasiness) we can begin to uncover the triggers and work through them. We can also learn to direct our mind (and therefore our emotions) to the places that bring joy and peace. It is a long process but so very worth the journey. Breath.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Introducing my NEW Blog

My New Business Venture - GraceandSimplicitySociety.blogspot.com

Hello friends. I am starting a new business venture and thought I would share what I am up to and why, on earth, at this point in my life I would choose to go back to work.

Almost eight years ago, I retired from my position at Sir Sandford Fleming College and began the next stage of my life. As many of you know, I married the love of my life and we settled into a quiet, loving existence sharing our lives and doing whatever pleased us. For the last 8 years I have practiced yoga, learned to cook and bake, welcomed children and grandchildren into my heart and made a home with my husband. I took to retirement ‘like a duck to water’ and have not been bored or unsettled for even one moment. There would have to be something very dear to my heart to make me change my lifestyle and take on a project or business venture, and that is just what happened.

When I was working, I was eating an unhealthy diet, carrying too much weight, feeling stressed most of the time, balancing work, life, ageing parents, travel & obligations and the most exercise I got was getting in and out of my jeep! Over the last 8 years I have, learned to cook (we make most everything from scratch…including mayonnaise and butter), bake (I make all our bread, buns, rolls etc.), become a yoga enthusiast and learned to see life from a perspective of serenity, simplicity and grace. I am healthier, happier and more content than I have been in a long time, if ever. I decided to take yoga teacher training, with a focus on ayurveda, I am learning to take photographs, mostly of serene nature, and as I have always done….I have been writing. One day it occurred to me that I could put these things together, along with what I loved best about my career….counselling….and my educational background of psychology and biology and create…..a web site! Well, given my limited tech skills, a web site was a little out of my league (for now) so……I decided to begin with a blog!

So that, my friends, is what I am doing. Thanks to some dear friends, a helpful library lesson and a lot of trial and error, I will shortly be creating my dream job. This will be a blog, with some awesome photographs (I hope :) ). The articles will focus on Lifestyle Coaching, a section for ‘aging with serenity, simplicity and grace’ where I will share the benefits of yoga as well as other insights. My philosophy of life is that our body knows how to care and repair itself, how we can help our body by eating whole foods to get the nourishment that our bodies and lives need to stay healthy. In a perfect world, this would be my only focus….but we do not live in a perfect world. We live in a world that has pollution, depleted soil and stress. I have listened to the science and the opinions on both sides of this issue and this is where I fall….Sometimes, in life, we struggle just to get through a day, we wake up at night feeling anxious and fearful of what the next day or days will bring, the world is changing faster than our ability to cope (just think Apple iPhones!), people are ‘communicating’ more with devices and less with face to face conversation, we buy fast food because at least our families can eat and we can go to bed and get ready for the next day to begin. Our organs are stressed because we are stressed. We all have changes that we want to make, but no one I know can make those changes over night or all at once. There are many options out there, programs, supplements, retreats, ‘don’t eat this’ ‘do eat this’ the latest superfood etc. Have a healthy dose of skepticism. Skepticism, is healthy, especially in these times where the internet and information overload is our reality. Skepticism should encourage research not distrust. Be skeptical, but not negative or dismissive.

I am sharing my blog with you and I invite you to look it over and hopefully there will be something of interest for you there. The site will focus on living a life with serenity, simplicity and grace….from the perspective of a 60 something retired baby boomer who looks in the mirror and sometimes wonders who that old lady is who is staring back at her. My blog will include insights that I have made on how to enjoy this life we have been given with as much joy and contentment as we can at any given time in our lives. It is not always easy, I believe that the key is to know yourself, acknowledge who you are, without apology or judgement and follow these simple words, which after much research, I have been able to attribute to Ellen Burstyn….1. Show Up. 2. Tell the Truth. 3. Pay Attention. 4. Let Go of the Outcome. (It has taken me years to digest that last one, but I am getting there). That is it for now my friends. If you are interested in learning more, feel free to contact me at terriblairmaracle@gmail.com or on my Facebook page.

Wish me luck….and please……join me for the ride!